Happy April! If you didn't already know, this year I've pledged to do the Around the World Reading Challenge. It's been really fun so far, trying to find books set all over the world, and written by people who aren't American. It's interesting, reading books that are often outside my comfort zone or focused on a topic that isn't as easy to read about. One of the mini-challenges in the Around the World challenge is to read a book from every state, although I decided to tweak it and make it a book from every Canadian province and territory instead. As a result I've been reading a lot more Canadian books. Here's two that I just finished!
The first book I just finished is the book Cockroach by Rawi Hage, which is about a man trying to survive in Montreal's immigrant community, among dealing with other problems. Although one of the interesting things is he doesn't really deal with his problems. There's his issues of thievery, stalking, suicide, and his consistent hallucinations of cockroaches. It's definitely a decision on the part of the author not to have the MC to struggle to overcome any of these issues, in order to try to say something, although I'm not quite sure what. There's so much going on this book, different things that the author does with various images, that I don't even know where to start unraveling it. It's not that it's bad, it's just that it requires a lot of thinking and I think a second read-through in order to really begin to understand what the author is trying to say.
The most interesting image is of course based off the title, the image of the cockroach, which the MC constantly imagines himself as. This is obviously the central focus of the book, the connection between this poor immigrant and how he thinks of himself as a cockroach. It's a very different, intriguing way of learning about immigrant's experiences in Canada, one that I'd never considered. It's definitely on the darker side, though, that's for sure. I wouldn't recommend this book for someone looking for something fun and light, but for someone who wants to be made to think, definitely.
The other book I just finished was Beauty Plus Pity by Kevin Chong. This was another book where I was uncertain what the author was trying to do, although it was a lot more obvious than in Cockroach, that's for sure. Beauty Plus Pity is about Malcolm, who lives in Vancouver and is a second-gen Canadian immigrant from Hong Kong. The book mostly focuses on his relationship with his half-sister, Hadley, who was born through an affair his father had. This book was definitely a lot easier to read than Cockroach, as it mostly just went through the drama in about a year of Malcolm's life.
Malcolm was a really easy narrator to read, too. His voice was always very calm and reasonable, and I felt comfortable in it. Just like the voice, the book also moved at a calm pace, yet it didn't feel dragged out but natural. Everything was very natural, all the character and relationship development. The subtle changes in the characters were definitely the strength of this book, because that is how people change in real life, I think. There were no giant epiphanies, but subtle ones that the reader kind of has to dig under the surface to find, which I love. I would definitely recommend this book, for someone looking for an easier read filled with good, bright and often humorous characters. Malcolm was just one of many characters in this book that was interesting to read about.
If you have any recommendations for books set outside of the U.S. or by non-American authors, comment below or tweet me @asherlockwrites!